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Gabby Petito’s Mother Calls Brian Laundrie A “Coward” In Interview

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The mother of murder victim Gabby Petito, speaking during a recent appearance on “60 Minutes Australia,” called the man being sought in connection with her daughter’s death a coward.

Nicole Schmidt, who appeared on the show over the weekend with Petito’s father and stepfather, was explicit in her thoughts about Brian Laundrie, who disappeared shortly before Petito’s body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest.

“He’s a coward,” she said. “He consciously knows what he’s doing.”

Petito’s body was found in the forest in northwest Wyoming last month after she was last heard from in August. She and Laundrie, her fiance, had been traveling the country in a van. On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the van and without Petito.

Nicole Schmidt did say she was concerned about her daughter going on the road trip, but felt more secure due to the fact that she would be with Laundrie. The mother and daughter spoke regularly, about every other day, while Petito and Laundrie were out seeing the country.

Schmidt and Petito last spoke by video conference on Aug. 24. Petito was reported missing by her family on Sept. 11 and her body was found on Sept. 19. Laundrie was reported missing in Florida on Sept. 17.

Laundrie has yet to be found, despite extensive searches by law enforcement agencies, along with Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman. A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Nicole Schmidt told “60 Minutes Australia” that Laundrie had always been polite, but quiet whenever he was around Petito’s family. However, she said he got along well with Petito’s younger siblings.

“He just seemed like a nice guy,” she said.

Nicole Schmidt said she did not even know Laundrie had been home with his family for nearly two weeks until she reported her daughter missing.

Last week, Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed Petito’s cause and manner of death as homicide by strangulation. He also said her body had been in the forest for three to four weeks before law enforcement officials discovered her remains.

“I just hope she didn’t suffer and that she wasn’t in any pain, that she was in a place she wanted to be, looking at the beautiful mountains,” Nicole Schmidt said.

The Schmidts believed Laundrie is hiding from police to escape justice.

“We were up every day and every night until we found Gabby,” said stepfather Jim Schmidt. “Are the people that love him doing the same for him? And why not?”

Joe Petito, Gabby’s father, echoed similar sentiments, questioning why Laundrie’s parents have refused to speak with police about the incident.

During their appearance, the family members expressed frustration.

“Gabby was 22-years-old. Her life was stolen from her,” Jim Schmidt said. “She was taken from us. This was evil.”

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Brian Laundrie Search Turns Into Circus With Laundrie Lawyer Attacking Dog The Bounty Hunter And John Walsh

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It was likely bound to happen when two celebrity detectives got involved in a crime investigation that has captured the attention of the nation.

The search for Gabby Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie turned into even more of a circus when Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman and television host John Walsh became very much of the story as they launched their own investigations into the matter.

The outspoken and brash attorney for Laundrie’s family doesn’t appear to appreciate their involvement and lashed out at the two on Thursday stating that the two crime-solvers are aging attention-seekers who are investigating the case to get publicity for themselves.

“Dusty relics like that Dog and John Walsh need a tragic situation like this so they can clear the cobwebs off their names and give their publicity hungry egos some food,” Steve Bertolino told TMZ on Thursday.

Chapman, never one to back down, fired back at Bertolini suggesting that he prefers Laundrie to remain missing.

“It’s ironic that Mr. Bertolino would criticize the people trying to find Brian Laundrie, unless perhaps he doesn’t want him found,” Chapman said.

Both Chapman and Walsh have been hypercritical of the Laundrie family. Walsh believes Laundrie’s family helped him disappear.

“I absolutely believe that his family is helping him stay on the run,” he said during news special he hosted about Petito’s death.

Although Walsh has ignored Bertolini’s comments (so far), he was outspoken during a press conference held by Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue.

Repeatedly during the news event, Walsh asked the coroner if he thought Laundrie was the killer. Blue never answered the question but Walsh did.

“I think everybody in the world believes that Brian Laundrie killed Gabby,” he said.

Laundrie remains a person of interest in the investigation into the death of Petito, who was found dead in Bridger-Teton National Forest last month.

A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

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Officials Worried About Wyoming’s Vulnerability to Water Supply Cyberattacks

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By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

There was a time when the greatest vulnerability to a municipality’s water system was a teenager, drunk, climbing a water tower, opening the hatch and getting rid of his beer, Mark Pepper, executive director of Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems, said.

Then this past January and March, a hacker infiltrated a city’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), which gave them all a wake-up call to the seriousness of cyber threats to the state’s fresh and waste water supplies. 

A wake-up call that has been four years in the making as cyber threats started creeping in a few years ago, and systems have been trying to address these types of issues ever since.  But now, we don’t have the luxury of waiting any longer to really dig in and get systems up to speed, Pepper said.

He won’t comment on which town was potentially hacked only to say that they were able to shut it down before any malfeasance was done to the water supply.

Water Systems Infiltrated

What might have happened? One needs only to turn to a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida, whose alert plant manager diverted a potentially serious threat last February when he saw his cursor moving around on his computer screen, opening various software functions controlling the water treatment.

The manager witnessed several functions being manipulated, including watching the sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, getting boosted up to 100 times its normal levels, according to the Associated Press (AP) article shared by PEW. The compound, which is also the main ingredient in liquid drain cleaners, is used to control acidity and remove metals from drinking water.

Had the hacker been successful, the 15,000 or so residents of the town may very well have been victims of lye poisoning that causes burns, vomiting, severe pain and bleeding.

Luckily, the operator was able to reduce the inflated levels of sodium hydroxide back to normal level once the hacker left his computer. Even if the hacker had succeeded, there were other safeguards in place to keep the water balances in check, the article noted, adding that the public was not actually in risk.

But still.  

For Pepper and others in the field, the hack was enough to get their attention to the potential vulnerabilities in Wyoming’s water and waste treatment facilities.

Experts Paying Attention

Pepper shared these concerns in a recent forum at the CyberWyoming Alliance virtual conference in early October during a conversation with Texas computer network intrusion and detection expert Dr. Gregory White.

In the conversation, the two discussed the inherent vulnerabilities of Wyoming’s water supply networks and the importance of both residents protecting themselves by keeping at least a two-week supply of water on hand as well as the importance of increased cyber and IT training for water plant employees and financial buy-in from the state legislature and government officials.

Wyoming’s rural, relatively unpopulated towns and cities present a unique challenge to the state’s water infrastructure, Pepper noted.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Tom Carper, D – Del, would agree. During his opening comments at a committee meeting on July 21, Carper addressed the growing threat of cyberattacks on the nation’s critical water infrastructure.

“Cyber vulnerabilities in our water systems represent unique national security challenges. A major breach in our water infrastructure system could jeopardize the safety of our drinking water and impair communities’ ability to safely dispose of harmful waste, threatening human health,” he said.

Pepper is well aware of the risks.

780 Public Water Systems in Wyo

Currently, there are 334 community water systems in the state, 96% of which are owned and operated by municipalities with the rest overseen by special districts. In addition to these systems, there are more than 450 non-community water systems that must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act but do not employ licensed water operators that are mainly guest ranches, dude ranches, bed and breakfasts and camp grounds.

In total, that adds up to around 780 public water systems with only 33 serving populations of 3,300 or greater. The vast majority instead service towns with population of 3,300 or fewer residents with 92 percent serving populations under 500.

This presents an enormous challenge when it comes to getting employees trained and systems updated in keeping with the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021 passed by Congress at the end of April by nearly unanimous, bipartisan consent. In part, the new law reauthorizes programs supporting water infrastructure with the goal of providing safe drinking water as well as wastewater facilities. 

In tandem is the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that dictates drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants in the interest of public health.

Under SDWA, all public water systems regardless of size are required to have an emergency response plan that should be updated as needed continually.

Wyoming met the timeline for the assessments for systems over 3,300 and is on track to meet the updated ERP requirement, according to Pepper, which dully made it clear that some of the computer systems and level of cyber awareness and training was by modern standards woefully out of date, he said, indicating a need for investment in both the human and technological upgrades in water infrastructure and training.

There’s a significant cost to doing both, Pepper acknowledged, as he and his association continue to encourage that these upgrades are made in the protection of public health.

Five Attempted Hacks So Far

To date, Wyoming has experienced five attempted hacks to its rural water systems. Two of those were the aforementioned attempted infiltrations in the municipality’s SCADA system.

They were interrelated attacks, Pepper said, due to the IT employee’s inability to completely root out the ransomware (albeit, a very sophisticated attack) in the first attack which left a backdoor open to vulnerability which the hacker exploited.

It was an auxiliary computer tied to the main computer system and the FBI and other agencies conducted a forensic investigation, Pepper noted, to which the results are still pending.

The other three infiltrations came through emails to the city clerk and other employees in email phishing scams. Though the water systems were not in direct jeopardy as a result of the attacks, the computer system governing billing and other functions were essentially shut down for a week.

Pepper worries that supply chain phishing scams will be the next scam on a long list given that nefarious individuals will no doubt want to exploit national and international clogs in the supply chain by too-good-to-be-true discounts on chemicals and PVC pipe already in short supply.

The biggest vulnerabilities, however, from a chemical standpoint are that hackers will be able to get into these systems and manipulate the legal limits of chemicals for disinfection and a myriad of other chemicals used to treat source water into drinking water which could lead to serious public health outbreaks.

Many of these attacks, he believes aren’t even targeted.

“I think a lot of hackers don’t know the effect but are sitting around drinking beer in a foreign country or wherever they are and get a hit and just start playing around to see what they can do,” he said. “In some respects, they are seeing what they can manipulate and what control systems are hackable.”

He doesn’t think that they’ve had any of their systems specifically targeted or whether the attacks that have happened are malicious intent. He just doesn’t know.

Scary Stuff

What he does know, however, is the seriousness of what such a hack can do to Wyoming’s vital water and waste treatment operations.

“If someone wanted to overdose chlorine to the point that a person filled up a glass and drank it, it could kill someone,” he said, “or a small community could drop dead of chlorine gas if they all turned on their faucets at the same time or had a release from the plant.”

On a positive note, they have partnered with expert IT people to provide training to water treatment plant managers and operators which is a great start, he said.

“The key is to get people trained and aware,” he said. “Training people to recognize what is happening and how to prevent problems and fix them and to also be aware of phishing email scams and to have enough awareness to know who to call when an issue arises.”

The latter proves vital in small, rural communities where the city government is tied to everything in town and where one contaminated computer system can have a larger reaching impact both on IT systems and facilities.

More importantly, he said, is raising awareness and convincing local and state government to make the investments in keeping their water supply and treatment plants safe.

Paying For Security

There seems to be a big disconnect on the cost of water, which for whatever reasons, raise the hackles of tax payers. That and potholes, he noted. He hears every day from Wyoming residents who complain about the cost of their water bill, and even watched a local mayoral candidate campaign solely on the promise of cutting water costs to the town.

“If people can flush a toilet or turn on the faucet that they are happy,” Pepper said. “They don’t care how it got there or what it cost to treat it. People will say that water should be free but will think nothing about going down to the local 7-11 and paying $1.69 for a 12-ounce bottle of water, which is not as regulated as tap water by the way.”

Yes, water might be “free,” he noted, but it costs a lot to treat it and deliver it to residents.

In the meantime, he’s focused as he says to crying to whoever will listen about the potential vulnerabilities in the state’s water systems.

Apart from paying a hefty ransom to unlock a computer system, the worst-case scenario involves potential doses of chemicals that make water deadly or cause serious public health risks due to contaminants in the disinfection process that might affect water quantity when pumps are shut off or water flow is impacted, allowing deadly bacteria to build. Only a fraction of Wyoming municipalities is currently able to manually operate their systems in the case of power being shut off.

Worst case scenarios are these effects to water quality or quantity that create potential public health risks on a small or massive scale.

“That’s my number one fear,” he said. “Number two would be ransomware shutting down the system that prevent us from operating or delivering water.”

The most recent hack was an eye opener for him and others, he said.

“The criminals are always one step ahead of figuring out the next scam.”

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How A Handcuffed Florida Man Stole A Police Car In Rawlins

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It may seem extraordinary that someone wearing handcuffs could slip through the partition in a police car and then steal the vehicle.

But it actually did happen last week in Rawlins, as Cowboy State Daily reported, and now photos show just how extraordinary the feat was.

It’s Houdini-level impressive.

One Cowboy State Daily reader asked if the suspect was 13 pounds. That’s a good question.

He was not. But Mira Miller, Community Relations Coordinator for the City of Rawlins, said Florida man James Estes is 140 pounds.

That’s small enough, apparently, where he slid his handcuffed arms from the back to the front of his body and then squirmed his way through the partition. Then he took off in the police car and drove it for 70 miles before wrecking the vehicle.

To demonstrate the size of the partition, the City of Rawlins sent Cowboy State Daily some photos which show it’s some real cramped space.

The opening is only 12 inches by 12 inches.

In more photos, Rawlins Chief of Police Michael Ward demonstrated there’s not much room there. He can get his head through it but that’s it.

Somehow — and in true Florida Man fashion — Estes pulled off the Houdini-like escape.

But it lasted less than an hour as he crashed the vehicle about 70 miles later and then tried to escape again on foot. Seconds later, he was tackled and arrested once again but this time with many, many more charges.

He is now a guest of the Sweetwater County Detention Center facing charges of:

  • Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Police Officers (WARRANT LONG FORM)
  • Escape from Official Detention
  • Reckless Driving 
  • Driving While License Cancelled, Suspended or Revoked – 2nd+ Offense 
  • Unlawful Possession – Powder or Crystalline < 3 Grams- 1st Offense
  • Vehicle Registration – Valid Title, Registration, Plates or Permits
  • Failure to Maintain Liability Coverage 
  • Arrest and Hold Order/PC Arrest for Probation/Parole Violation 
  • Unauthorized Use of Vehicles 

To the surprise of no one, bond is not being offered. Presumably because he may be viewed as a flight risk.

Sadly, calls to the Sweetwater County Detention Centers were not returned.

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Three Men Found Guilty For Defrauding Investors In Wyoming Natural Gas Schemes

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three men were found guilty by a federal jury in Cheyenne this week stemming from two schemes to defraud investors in Wyoming and elsewhere in the United States.

Justin Herman, 50, of Pennsylvania and Charles Winters Jr., 61, of Florida were convicted of fraud and identity theft crimes. Ian Horn, 67, of Florida was acquitted of the charged fraud crimes, but convicted of making a false statement to the grand jury.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Herman and Winters conspired with  Robert “Bob” Mitchell, who pleaded guilty earlier this year, to “pump and dump” NuTech Energy Resources Inc. stock.

A “pump and dump” scheme is a form of securities fraud where the conspirators manipulate demand for a stock and the stock’s price, and then sell their worthless shares of the stock to the public at the artificially high price.

In this case, the conspirators bought control of a publicly traded shell company called EcoEmissions Solutions Inc. and changed the company’s name to NuTech Energy Resources, whose stock was sold under the ticker symbol NERG.

The conspirators released information online to create a false image for NuTech as a company located in Gillette that was operating gas wells in Wyoming using a patented technology. In reality, NuTech had no business, no revenue and no paid employees in Wyoming or elsewhere.  

As part of the conspiracy, Herman and Winters used altered, backdated and forged documents to acquire 13 billion free-trading shares of NuTech common stock.

The conspirators then artificially inflated the market price of NuTech common stock by manipulative trading and releasing to the public false and misleading information about NuTech’s business prospects.

When the market price increased based on this false information, the conspirators turned around and sold their worthless NuTech shares to unwitting investors in the public market, including people in Wyoming and around the world. 

According to the indictment, more than $1.3 million was stolen from about three dozen investors, most of whome lived in and around Gillette.

Horn is a Florida-licensed attorney. As part of the investigation, he was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury in January 2019 because his name appeared on documents related to NuTech and because the money used by Mitchell and Herman to buy control of EcoEmissions was transferred through Horn’s bank accounts.

The jury found that Horn lied during his grand jury testimony about NuTech-related email communications that he falsely claimed he lost and could not access despite having access to his email and was forwarding relevant messages to Herman in December 2018.  

Herman and Winters were each found guilty of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of aggravated identity theft.

Herman faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence and could be sentenced to a maximum of 53 years in prison.

Winters also faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence and could be sentenced to a  maximum of 49 years in prison.

Horn was found guilty of making a false statement to the grand  jury and could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.

The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced  on Jan. 5, 2022.  

Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday and could be sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison.  

“These convictions are the direct result of a diligent investigation by a hardworking Postal  Inspector and our partners at the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming,” said Ruth Mendonça, Inspector in Charge of the Denver Division, which includes Wyoming. “Working together, their perseverance unraveled the  defendants’ complex scheme to defraud over 2,300 victims and delivered the justice that each  victim deserved. We are proud of the efforts to uphold the mission of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to protect postal customers and consumers from fraudsters.”

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Wyoming Man Who Shot Other Man Over Song On Radio Pleads Guilty

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man accused of shooting another over a song on the radio in a pickup truck changed his plea to guilty this week.

Ronald Blaise Jenkins, 25, pleaded guilty to using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence this week. He will be sentenced on Dec. 20.

Jenkins was initially charged in May in U.S. District Court with assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

According to an affidavit filed by Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent Michael Shockley, his investigation into the shooting of a man identified only as “W.S.” revealed that the shooting occurred as the result of a disagreement over a song on the radio while he and Jenkins were in a truck.

W.S. had been riding in a pickup truck with three other men, including Jenkins, drinking alcohol and listening to music on the radio.

Two of the men in the truck said W.S. and Jenkins began arguing about a song on the radio and then prepared to fight over the issue.

At that point, Jenkins shot W.S. over the argument.

Jenkins told investigators W.S. had played a song on the radio he did not like and the two began arguing.

He said W.S. got out of the back seat of the pickup truck, opened the door to the seat where Jenkins was sitting and punched him in the face.

Jenkins said he had broken his neck several years earlier and the attack made him afraid for his life. He said he found a gun on the floor of the pickup truck and was pointing it at W.S. when “it just went off.”

W.S., meanwhile, told investigators he did not remember what the argument was about, but that both he and Jenkins got out of the truck and were preparing to fight when Jenkins pulled a pistol out.

The victim said he charged Jenkins in an attempt to take the pistol away from him, but was unsuccessful and Jenkins fired.

The affidavit said W.S. was helped into the emergency room at SageWest Hospital in Riverton by two men who left him there.

The investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Wind River Police Department,  with assistance from the Riverton Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Kerry J.  Jacobson prosecuted the case.

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Coroner: Gabby Petito Died By Strangulation, Body Left In Woods For Weeks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gabby Petito died by strangulation and her body was left in Bridger-Teton National Park for three to four weeks before police found her, the Teton County coroner announced on Tuesday.

Dr. Brent Blue held a news conference to announce the manner and cause of death for Petito, whose body was found in the woods almost one month ago. Her death was ruled a homicide not long after she was found, but Blue officially announced the cause this week.

He could not reveal much information about how his office determined the manner of death or how they knew Petito had been in the woods for as long as she had, due to a Wyoming state statute. He also could not say whether Petito was killed in the woods and left there or if she had been killed elsewhere and her body was left in the park.

Blue also could not reveal an approximate date of death, but confirmed Petito’s remains have been released to a local mortuary, which will work with her family to return her to them.

Petito’s fiance, Brian Laundrie, is a person of interest in the investigation into her death, but has been missing since Sept. 17.

John Walsh, former host of “America’s Most Wanted,” questioned Blue about his thoughts on whether or not Laundrie was Petito’s killer.

“I think everybody in the world believes that Brian Laundrie killed Gabby,” he said.

Blue could not attest to who killed Petito, and continued to affirm her manner and cause of death only.

One reporter questioned Blue about why it took so long to get the autopsy results.

“The reason was that we were very exacting on our examination and the detail by which the examination was done,” Blue said. “It was just a matter of making sure we had everything right.”

Blue also confirmed that law enforcement took DNA samples from Petito’s remains.

Petito and Laundrie had been traveling the country in a van. On Sept. 1, Laundrie returned to his home in Florida with the fan and without Petito. She was reported missing on Sept. 11.

A warrant has been issued for Laundrie’s arrest by the federal court in Cheyenne. The warrant does not accuse Laundrie of any role in Petito’s death, but accuses of him of unlawfully using a credit card in the days following her disappearance.

Police from various departments are searching for Laundrie. The case has also attracted national attention, meaning that the FBI and even reality star Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman have gotten involved in the search for Laundrie.

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Driver Abandons Car After Smashing Into Building; Leaves Wallet & Driver’s License in Vehicle

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

If there were a criminals’ handbook, you would think there could be a section on covering your tracks after committing a crime.

Sadly, for one individual in Cheyenne, there is no such handbook.

A yet-to-be-identified driver plowed into a Cheyenne building on Monday night and abandoned the vehicle. The only problem with that strategy is a wallet was left behind containing a drivers’ license.

The Cheyenne Police Department brought up the hit and run on Facebook Tuesday morning noting the presence of identification in the vehicle which was firmly ensconced in Needs, Inc., a Cheyenne food pantry.

“To the woman who felt compelled to donate her Subaru to Needs, inc. shortly after midnight, they’re no longer taking vehicle donations,” the department wrote.

“However, we do have your wallet and ID so feel free to come on back over and we can help you put together some of these puzzles you knocked off the shelves,” the post said.

The nonprofit organization seemed to take the collision in stride despite having to close down for the foreseeable future.

“Please remember our donation hours are Monday & Tuesday 8:30am-6pm and Wednesday & Thursday 8:30am-4pm. Unfortunately, we do not accept cars. We are truly grateful for the support of the Cheyenne Police Department,” the post read.

Of course, it could have been an elaborate set-up where someone stole the car and planted the ID. But that’s for the sleuths at the police department to figure out.

Needs, Inc. is the largest food pantry in Laramie County. The organization clothed more than 3,300 people in 2020.

By 5 a.m. Tuesday, Needs boards members and some other volunteers came out to the building to help clean up and board up the broken window.

Around $130 had been raised for Needs as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Anyone who saw the crash or has information about the driver’s whereabouts is encouraged to contact the police department at

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Drunk, Meth-Using Montana Man Gets Prison For Multi-Stolen Vehicle High Speed Chases, Crashes

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

A Montana man who traveled to Park County in a stolen truck and then led police on a high-speed chase in another stolen vehicle is headed to prison.

In Park County District Court last week, 27-year-old Garrett Bailey pleaded guilty to a felony count of theft and accepted a five- to seven-year prison sentence for his actions last winter.

The sentence, which was the result of a plea deal, also calls for Bailey to pay more than $7,000 to cover the damage he did to the two stolen vehicles and to repair a Wyoming Highway Patrol vehicle damaged in February’s pursuit.

“I would like to give an apology to the victims for damages caused, any trouble caused, as well as anybody potentially put in danger,” Bailey told District Court Judge Bill Simpson.

Authorities say Bailey arrived in Park County around Feb. 21, driving a 2004 Ford Ranger he’d stolen from Harding County, New Mexico. He told Powell police he’d intended to take the vehicle back to his home in Butte, Montana, but he got stuck in a snowdrift on Wyo. Highway 294 outside Ralston. Bailey abandoned the truck and, a couple days later, stole a 2015 Ford Edge that had been left running in the Blair’s Super Market parking lot.

The owner quickly alerted authorities, who spotted Bailey driving the vehicle outside of Cody. Officers attempted to pull him over on Beacon Hill Road, but Bailey fled, starting a high-speed pursuit that would stretch miles south of Cody on Wyo. Highway 120. According to an affidavit from Trooper Randall Davis, Bailey reached speeds of up to 125 mph on the highway.

Bailey later turned into the Oregon Basin area and Davis “missed the turn and slid off into the borrow ditch and snow, getting the patrol vehicle stuck.” The trooper’s vehicle sustained $3,109 of damage.

Bailey later came racing out of Oregon Basin and attempted to continue his flight, but he was thwarted by a set of spike strips deployed by Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Allen Cooper. Two of the tires deflated and, after driving on rims for a couple miles, Bailey pulled over.

He tried pretending that he wasn’t the driver, stripping down to his long johns and concocting a story in which he’d been kidnapped in Powell by a man in a dark mask. But Powell Police Investigator Chris Wallace didn’t buy it — for one thing, he obtained surveillance footage that showed Bailey stealing the Ford Edge from Blair’s — and Bailey fessed up, charging documents say.

At the time of his arrest, Bailey failed sobriety tests and he told police he’d been drinking and had used both meth and marijuana earlier in the day. A DUI charge, plus two other misdemeanor counts and two additional felonies were dismissed by the Park County Attorney’s Office as part of the deal.

Bailey agreed to plead guilty, but wavered during the Sept. 29 hearing, asking Judge Simpson if he could plead no contest instead. At the judge’s suggestion, Bailey did plead guilty, but without testifying about his actions.

He was also ordered to pay $1,077.91 for the damage caused to the Ford Edge stolen from Blair’s and $2,864.08 to the Harding County, New Mexico, government for the damage he did to their Ford Ranger.

Bailey’s defense attorney, Tim Blatt, said the payment will resolve the New Mexico case.

“They’ve indicated that, pursuant to the action … taken by Park County, they do not plan on filing any charges down in Harding County, New Mexico, and are going to be satisfied with the restitution they received from this particular case,” Blatt said.

Judge Simpson questioned whether any of the victims had already been compensated by their insurance companies, “because we want to make sure that there is no double payment.”

However, Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield noted the Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that it’s irrelevant whether a victim has been made whole by their insurer; the court has held multiple times that double payment is an issue for a victim and an insurer to work out, saying in a 2020 ruling that it would be “absurd” for a defendant to owe nothing for the damage they caused. Hatfield did agree, however, that the insurance payments were relevant as to which victim should be paid first.

The judge asked Bailey to pay at least 25% of whatever income he earns in prison to his court fines and then his restitution, though it’s unlikely that income will be significant.

The roughly seven months that Bailey has served in the Park County Detention Center since his Feb. 23 arrest will count toward his prison sentence — and he also will likely receive a reduction for good behavior both in jail and in prison.

The hearing slowed after Bailey asked whether he’d receive a reduction, known as “good time,” for the 219 days he’d spent in custody in Cody. Simpson suggested the judgment and sentence document should include that figure.

“It would be most helpful to have that number,” Simpson said, who expressed frustration that the plea agreement and other details hadn’t been submitted in advance of the hearing. The judge apologized to Bailey about “these loose ends that are coming up.”

However, Hatfield said it’s up to the Department of Corrections to calculate good time, Blatt agreed and the hearing moved on.

As of Wednesday, Bailey remained in the Cody jail, awaiting transport to prison. Simpson said the defendant would likely be assigned to a medium security facility in Newcastle.

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Woman Gets Jail Time For Getting Too Close to Grizzly Bears

in Yellowstone/News/Grizzly Bears/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Illinois woman who was caught on video getting too close to grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park earlier this year received four days in jail as punishment this week.

Samantha R. Dehring, 25, pleaded guilty to willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards. The other count, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wildlife, was dismissed.

Dehring appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on Wednesday for her change of plea and sentencing hearing.

She was sentenced to four days in custody, one-year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, a $1,000 community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 court processing fee and a $10 assessment.

Dehring also received a one-year ban from Yellowstone National Park.  

According to the violation notices, Dehring was at Roaring Mountain in Yellowstone National Park on May 10, when visitors noticed a sow grizzly and her three cubs.

While other visitors slowly backed off and got into their vehicles, Dehring remained. She continued to take pictures as the sow bluff charged her.  

“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are, indeed, wild. The park is not a zoo where animals  can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure. They roam freely in their natural habitat  and when threatened will react accordingly,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.  “Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a  criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist.” 

According to the National Park Service, a bluff charge is the more common type of charge and is meant to scare or intimidate. If a bluff charge is about to happen, a person is supposed to slowly back away from the bear while waving their arms above their head and speaking to the bear in a calm voice.

People should not run when a bear bluff charges, because it may trigger the animal to attack.

According to Yellowstone National Park regulations, when an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space. Stay 25 yards away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.

This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

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